Dangerous Fish That Can Kill You!

Anglers often run into these killer fish species––on purpose.

Fishing is a benign activity––most of the time. Sunburn or a hooked finger aside, anglers usually have little to be concerned about.

That's not the case, however, for those who target some killer fish species, or those who frequent America's most dangerous fisheries. Every year, some anglers are fatally injured from these fish, or suffer from their injuries after they drown, are dashed against rocks, are struck by lightning or are injured in boat collisions.

Find out if you're risking life and life by fishing for these dangerous species, or fishing in the most dangerous waters in America.

Surprisingly Dangerous Fish Species Around the World

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of offshore anglers like a wild wahoo loose on the deck.

Wahoo

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of offshore anglers like a wild wahoo loose on the deck.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of offshore anglers like a wild wahoo loose on the deck. With teeth like a band saw and jaws that close like a pair of scissors, a wahoo can do some serious damage with little effort. "Wahoo will tear you up," says Captain Jimmy Hillsman (outerbanksfishingschool.com). "They'll actually make an effort to bite you." Hillsman makes it a point to get two gaffs in a big wahoo before carefully lifting it out of the water and into the box. "They go wild when you put a gaff in them," he says. "Jumping off the gaff then thrashing around the deck swiping at people's legs and feet." Even with the fish in the fishbox, the danger isn't over. "Most people get bit trying to get their hook back," Hillsman says. "I don't even worry about the hook until we get back to the dock."

Location: Oregon Inlet, North Carolina.

Season: April through October.

Tackle and Tactics: Although wahoo are aggressive feeders that will hit almost any bait in the water, anglers targeting these fish will pull a dark purple Marauder or a black and red seawitch/ballyhoo combo behind a planer. Look for wahoo around the bluewater wrecks and reefs that they call home.

Jack crevalle have a face that is looking for a fight.

Jack Crevalle

Jack crevalle have a face that is looking for a fight.Outdoor Life Online Editor

With the intimidating grimace and squashed nose of a veteran pugilist, jack crevalle have a face that is looking for a fight. Anglers who get in the ring with one of these fish usually end up with belly bruises and hurt egos. "They're a mean and ornery fish," says Ken Neill, a Virginia angler who has fought many bouts with big crevalle. Not only will jacks attack any bait that crosses it's path, it will use all of it's energy to take the fight into the final rounds. "They don't give up," Neill says. "They fight until they have nothing left." As the fish takes the fight into the final rounds, Neill says that the angler is usually feeling punch drunk, too. "They're definitely one of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean."

Location: Virginia Beach, VA.

Season: August through October.

Tackle and tactics: Schools of big crevalle jacks show up off Virginia Beach each fall. The fish will fall for a Huntington Drone spoon or Rapala plug trolled at six knots, but the best way to catch one is by dropping a live bait into the legs of Chesapeake Light Tower. "They cannot turn down a live croaker," Neill says, "but they are a beast to get out of the tower legs."

Cobia often swim right up to the boat and eat whatever bait they are offered.

Cobia

Cobia often swim right up to the boat and eat whatever bait they are offered.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Cobia are curious creatures. They will often swim right up to the boat and eat whatever bait they are offered. But that's where the curiosity ends and the dirty tricks begin. "No two cobia fight the same way," says Captain Troy Crane (maraudersportfishing.com) - a nearshore fishing specialist out of Pirates Cove, North Carolina. Crane says that cobia will pull every trick in the book from charging the boat to spooling a reel. Even after a big cobia is on the deck, the fight is not over. "They flat-out tear stuff up," Crane says. "I've seen them throw coolers, break fishbox lids, jump off the gaff, we even had one fish smack an angler in the chin and knock him over."

Season: May through September.

Location: North Carolina's Outerbanks oceanfront.

Tackle: Heavy spinning gear, 65-pound braided line, 2-ounce bucktails

Techniques: On bright sunny days, Crane cruises the beach sight-casting to marauding cobia. When low light makes sight fishing difficult, he can anchor up and deploy a chum trail to bring these fish into his live bunker and bluefish baits.

Larry Dahlberg has traveled the globe looking for the biggest and meanest fish that swim.

Amazon Catfish

Larry Dahlberg has traveled the globe looking for the biggest and meanest fish that swim.Outdoor Life Online Editor

As host of the television program, Hunt for Big Fish, Larry Dahlberg (huntforbigfish.com) has traveled the globe looking for the biggest and meanest fish that swim. He found just such a fish 250 miles up the Corentyne River in Suriname. When Dahlberg hooked the giant catfish, it almost pulled him out of the boat. "It felt like I was hooked to a submarine," he says. "The fish turned the boat around and started to drag it backwards." Dahlberg had to muscle the fish to keep it out of the sharp rocks at the bottom of the river. "I was seeing spots in my periphery," he says. "I was totally falling apart." The catfish measured over eight-and-a-half feet long with a 46-inch girth, which puts its weight at well over 400 pounds. "It was like being in a wrestling ring with someone twice your weight," Dahlberg says. "That fish hurt."

Location: Corentyne River, Suriname.

Seasons: Rainy season when the river is high enough for a boat to reach the fall line.

Tackle and Techniques: Since Dahlberg never knows what he'll find when he goes hunting for big fish, his tackle must be portable and versatile. He uses a Shimano Torsa reel spooled with 130-pound test Suffix line on a lightweight, high-power Trevally Jigging Rod. Combining 80 pounds of drag with a virtually unbreakable rod means something has to give. "The fish almost yanked me out of the boat," Dahlberg says.

Not only are mako sharks big and mean, but they can swim up to 60 miles per hour and jump almost 20 feet in the air.

Mako Shark

Not only are mako sharks big and mean, but they can swim up to 60 miles per hour and jump almost 20 feet in the air.Outdoor Life Online Editor

After a fish is hooked, it usually tries to bulldog away. But most fish aren't 800 pounds with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Not only are mako sharks big and mean, but they can swim up to 60 miles per hour and jump almost 20 feet in the air. Captain Devlin Roussel (reelpeace.com) has had the table turned on him by an angry mako. One nine-foot mako decided that it was not afraid of a couple of people standing in a boat holding sticks. After Devlin hooked it, the fish swam up to the boat and rolled on its side. "I think he was sizing us up," Roussel says. Next, the 500-pound fish started to chew on Roussel's propeller. The captain threw the boat into gear to escape the attacking fish. "The shark was trying to jump into the boat," he says. "I think it wanted us as bad as we wanted him."

Location: Midnight Lump, Venice Louisiana.

Season: January and February.

Tackle and Techniques: Roussel never knows when he'll run into a big mako so he keeps a pitch rod rigged with 30 feet of 700 pound aircraft cable and a 12/0 Mustad 7691 Stainless Steel hook. When a shark comes into his baits, he butterflies a bonita tuna and drops it back on the rig.

Muskie are famous for following an angler's bait right up to the boat.

Muskellunge

Muskie are famous for following an angler's bait right up to the boat.Outdoor Life Online Editor

In the Native American Ojibwe language, the word Muskellunge means "ugly pike." But for Chae Dolson (websterlakeguideservice.com) and other anglers on Indiana's Webster Lake, muskie are the prettiest fish that swims. "There is no finessing a big muskie," Dolson says. "If they strike the lure and miss you have to speed it up and work it harder." Dolson has had muskie attack his lure four or more times before taking the hook. "A lot of times, they'll chase it right up to the boat," he says. Muskie aren't very pretty up close, though. "Their teeth are like double-edged knives," he says. "One shake of the head and they can cut you to the bone."

Location: Webster Lake, Indiana.

Seasons: May through June; September to November.

Tips and Techniques: Muskie are famous for following an angler's bait right up to the boat. To hook a muskie at close range, Dolson wildly works his lure in a figure 8 pattern in front of the fish. "For some reason they prefer to eat at the boat," he says.

In the contest for meanest fish in the ocean, Larry Dahlberg votes for the giant trevally.

Giant Trevally

In the contest for meanest fish in the ocean, Larry Dahlberg votes for the giant trevally.Outdoor Life Online Editor

In the contest for meanest fish in the ocean, Larry Dahlberg votes for the giant trevally. In his travels as host of the television show, Hunt for Big Fish (huntforbigfish.com), Dahlberg has run into plenty of GT's. The first GT Dahlberg hooked on light tackle spooled his reel and busted his rod. "After running 150 yards, the fish was still accelerating," he says. "The line broke with such force that it straightened the guides on the rod." Not one to admit defeat easily, Dahlberg returned with a new rod and heavier line. The next fish he hooked didn't get a chance to run. "I clamped down on the drag and pulled the fish into shallower water." Unfortunately for Dahlberg, GTs are as good at hand-to-hand combat as they are at breaking fishing equipment. "When I tried to grab the fish, it kicked so hard that it cut a whole in my glove and took off."

Location: Seychelle Islands.

Season: Year Round.

Tackle and Techniques: When he sees a big GT cruising the flats, Dahlberg gets the fish's attention with a big topwater teaser then throws his fly in front of the fish. "GT's are beasts," he says. "It's like snagging a school bus, they just turn around and leave."

Anglers targeting Pacific ling cod follow the old adage: big baits equal big fish.

California Ling Cod

Anglers targeting Pacific ling cod follow the old adage: big baits equal big fish.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Anglers targeting Pacific ling cod follow the old adage: big baits equal big fish. "Ling will eat anything smaller than their head," explains northern California ling specialist Sean White (gwkc.com). And these fish have a huge head full of needle-point teeth. Although bouncing big jigs will produce big ling, White says that he catches the biggest fish while he's targeting rockfish. "I'll be hooked up to a rockfish and a ling will grab onto it and not let go." The ling are so aggressive- and stubborn- that they will hold on to the rockfish until White can land both fish. "If you're lucky you get a nice rockfish and a big ling, too" he says.

Location:Mendocino County, California

Season: Year round.

Tackle and Techniques: Sean White prefers to chase ling and other fish from a kayak. "There are only a few boat ramps in our area," he says. "But there are a zillion places to launch a kayak." Of course, landing a toothy fish in a little kayak doesn't leave room for negotiating. "I get a good gaff shot in the head and then beat the tar out of it with a fish bonker," he says.

One bull chomped on Collette's boat leaving gouges from its top teeth on the gunwale.

Bull Sharks

One bull chomped on Collette's boat leaving gouges from its top teeth on the gunwale.Outdoor Life Online Editor

No question that sharks are mean and nasty critters and the meanest and nastiest of them all is the bull shark. Blame it on testosterone. Bull sharks have more testosterone pumping through their veins than any other animal on the planet. "Bull sharks are just plain nasty," says pro backwater-guide Captain Ken Collette (kencollette.com). Since Collette's favorite pursuit is targeting big sharks with fly tackle, he has picked plenty of fights with some seriously nasty bullsharks. "They will bite everything," Collette says, and his flats boat has the battle scars to prove it. One bull chomped on Collette's boat leaving gouges from its top teeth on the gunwale, and from it's bottom jaw on the chine. "That's 16 inches apart," Collette says.

Season: December through June.

Location: Flats of Biscayne Bay.

Tackle and Technique: Big flies for big sharks. Collette uses 9- to 12-inch pink and white flies. Chum is the key, so Collette deploys a scent trail of fresh ladyfish, barracuda and tuna. "You see sharks coming like the house is on fire," Collette says, "no question what is on their mind."

"Move the bait fast and erratically so that it makes a wonk, wonk, sound," he suggests.

Tigerfish

"Move the bait fast and erratically so that it makes a wonk, wonk, sound," he suggests.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Hunt for Big Fish television host Larry Dahlberg ( target="_blank">huntforbigfish.com) describes African tiger fish as "fighter planes with food processors on their face." Resembling a striped bass with a mouth full of ice picks, tiger fish have some of the nastiest choppers in nature. "A three-pounder could take your ring finger off in one snap," Dahlberg says. He explains that there is a reason that these fish have developed such a mean disposition. "In Africa a year of drought might mean a weak year-class of baitfish," Dahlberg explains. "So tigerfish may have to eat other fish that are two-thirds their own size."

Location: Zambezi River, Africa.

Season: Rainy Season.

Tackle and Techniques: Although the best way to catch a tiger fish is with a beefed up spoon or topwater plug, Dahlberg prefers to fool them with fly tackle. He uses a sinking line, wire leader, and five-inch Dahlberg Diver. "Move the bait fast and erratically so that it makes a wonk, wonk, sound," he suggests.

Dahlberg calls freshwater wolfish the most underrated gamefish on the planet.

Wolfish

Dahlberg calls freshwater wolfish the most underrated gamefish on the planet.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Larry Dahlberg (huntforbigfish.com) calls freshwater wolfish the most underrated gamefish on the planet. "They jump like demons, take flies and topwater poppers, and they're just plain vicious," he says. The reason these fish don't get the attention that they deserve is that freshwater wolfish live in the deepest darkest swamps of the Amazon. "They have real nasty, wolf-like teeth," he continues. "I've seen one eat a four-foot iguana." To catch them, Dahlberg wades around the muck working a big topwater popper. "You have to cast ahead of yourself," he says, "if you wade through the fish they will eat you."

Location: French Guyana/Suriname.

Season: Dry Season.

Tackle and Tactics: When Dahlberg goes into the swamp looking for wolfish, he takes a medium Shimano Curado combo rigged with a popping plug the size of a bowling pin. He cautions anglers to handle these fish with extreme caution. "When you release a wolfish, be sure to throw it away from yourself," he says. "Otherwise they will turn around and take a chunk out of you."

The marlin weighed in at 1077 pounds and became only the fifth grander landed with rod and reel off the East Coast.

Grander Marlin

The marlin weighed in at 1077 pounds and became only the fifth grander landed with rod and reel off the East Coast.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Marlin weighing over a thousand pounds are big fish in a big pond. Only a handful of granders have ever been caught on the Atlantic Coast and last summer the crew of the charter boat Swordfish (swordfish-obx.com) added to that number off Oregon Inlet, North Carolina. Captain Jimmy Hillsman (obxfishingschool.com) was working as a mate on the boat when the big blue marlin came knocking. Hillsman recalls that the fish first attacked their dredge, then the teaser, and then the dink bait before co-mate Austin Robin deployed a pitchbait. "The bait went down the hatch, the fish was on, and the rest is history," Hillsman says.

After angler Billy Landes battled the fish for three hours, Hillsman, Robins and Captain Justin Ringer dragged the fish into the cockpit. "It's bill was in the salon and the tail was hanging out the tuna door," Hillsman recalls. Back at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, the marlin weighed in at 1077 pounds and became only the fifth grander landed with rod and reel off the East Coast. But a marlin doesn't have to weigh a thousand pounds to do some serious damage. Hillsman says that professional mates have so much respect for these fish that few accidents ever happen. "You have to pay attention all the time or they'll get you," Hillsman says.

Location: Oregon Inlet, North Carolina.

Season: May through September.

Tackle and techniques: Even though for Atlantic Coast anglers grander marlin only come once in a blue moon, crews are always rigged and ready when their turn comes. Hillsman keeps a Tiagra 80W combo rigged with a cable leader and baited with a Moldcraft chugger and horse ballyhoo ready to deploy should a big marlin come up in the spread. "You never know what you'll see out there," Hillsman says. "So you have to be ready for everything."

Ask any angler on the Atlantic Coast about mean and nasty fish and he's likely to tell you about bluefish.

Bluefish

Ask any angler on the Atlantic Coast about mean and nasty fish and he's likely to tell you about bluefish.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Ask any angler on the Atlantic Coast about mean and nasty fish and he's likely to tell you about bluefish. With a sleek powerful body and teeth that cut like a Cuisinart, not much escapes the path of a hungry bluefish. Kevin Whitley (kayakkevin.com) is a pro kayak angler who has dealt with everything from small blues called tailors to larger fish known as choppers in his little, plastic boat. "They're really frightening," Whitley says, "I've had them bite my nuts and latch on." He had to use a pair of pliers to remove the fish. But Whitley blows off the incedent, "Luckily it was just a little one," he says. Whitley runs into bigger blues while trolling in the ocean for striped bass. "It's a hell of a surprise when you think your fighting a striper and a big blue comes up out of the water with its jaws chopping," Whitley says, "Those teeth would castrate you."

Location: Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Season: April to December.

Tackle and Tactics: Whitley catches smaller bluefish on 3/8 to .5 ounce jigs sweetened with a Gulp jig tail. Bigger fish fall for big plugs and spoons trolled at a couple of knots along the oceanfront.

Barracuda are the arch-enemy of anglers fishing along the Florida Keys.

Barracuda

Barracuda are the arch-enemy of anglers fishing along the Florida Keys.Outdoor Life Online Editor

Barracuda are the arch-enemy of anglers fishing along the Florida Keys. According to Key West guide, Frank Piku, (captainfranksfishingcharters.com) barracuda are famous for stealing fish off a fisherman's line. With a body shaped like a bullet train and a mouth full of the sharpest teeth in the ocean, barracuda will make quick work of a fisherman's catch. Piku has run into his share of mean and nasty 'cudas. "Once we caught a four-foot barracuda and released it," he recalls, "and it came right back and kept eating the yellowtail we were catching." The biggest barracuda that he ever crossed paths with was off the Bahamas. Piku was fishing for grouper when he caught a huge 'cuda that he estimates weighed more than 100 pounds. "The guide is five-feet, eight-inches tall and he was holding the barracuda by the gills and the fish was a head taller with it's tail curling on the deck."

Location: Florida Keys.

Season: Year Round.

Tackle and Techniques: Although Piku tries to avoid catching barracuda, sometimes his clients are just too curious. So, he hooks a blue runner on a king rig consisting of two #4 treble hooks on #5 wire and drops in front of a marauding 'cuda. With these fish in the water, Piku tells his clients to quickly reel in their catch or loose it to the barracuda.

From head to toe, bluefin tuna are nothing but muscle.

Bluefin Tuna

From head to toe, bluefin tuna are nothing but muscle.Outdoor Life Online Editor

From head to toe, bluefin tuna are nothing but muscle. When a bluefin unleashes that muscle against an angler half it's size, the result can be painful. Captain Joe Shute (captjoes.com) knows all about the pain, he targets bluefins off Cape Lookout, North Carolina in a 22-foot Parker. "I've seen a bluefin kick a big guy's ass in 15 minutes," he says. With all that power, there is no way a mere mortal can beat one of these giants. "Let the harness, rod, and drag do the work," Shute says. A big bluefin will drag Shute's small boat up to three miles from where the fish was hooked. "You have to make the fish earn every inch," he says. "If you try to fight them they'll kill you."

Location: Atlantic Beach, North Carolina.

Season: December and January.

Tackle and Tactics: Only the heaviest tackle and toughest stand up harness can stand the punishment of a giant bluefin tuna. Shute uses a Tiagra 50 spooled with 100 pound braid and a 100 yard topshot of 130 pound test Momoi Diamond leader. When a big bluefin is on the line, Shute tries to keep the boat over top of the fish. "We're usually fishing in 60 feet of water, so the tuna can't run down," he says.

The Six Deadliest Fishing Waters

Six fisheries stand head-and-shoulders above the rest for sheer, unmitigated peril. Each has unique hazards that set it apart and qualify it for Deadly Water status.

Find out if you fish where one misstep or stroke of bad luck can cost you your life.

1. Columbia Bar

Sailors call the mouth of the Columbia River "the graveyard of the Pacific." A better name might be "salmon fisherman's nightmare." The river's powerful current collides with wind-driven ocean swells, generating killer waves that can capsize boats or run them aground. Unfortunately for anglers, the most chaotic surf occurs on the seaward side of Buoy 10-smack in the heart of one of the Pacific Northwest's finest salmon fisheries.

"With banner salmon runs the past few seasons, a lot of folks have gone out to fish the bar," says Terry Rudnick, a boating information specialist for Washington State Parks. "A lot of those people have no business being out there."

When the salmon are running, 500 small boats can be seen working the estuary-everything from seaworthy cruisers to johnboats and rubber dinghies. When the waves kick up, weak boats suffer.

During a six-week period in 2001, the local U.S. Coast Guard station responded to more than 300 calls for rescue. Thirteen boaters lost their lives.

"On one hellacious day, we had two accidents with three fatalities," Rudnick recalls. "Two boats got into the surf at Peacock Spit, tried to turn around and were capsized." The worst conditions occur when the tide ebbs and a strong wind blows in from the west. "With all that water rushing out and a twenty-five- to thirty-mile-per-hour wind blowing in, we get some monster swells," Rudnick says.

Offshore anglers headed back into the river often find themselves blocked by the line of rollers that forms across the bar. "Ten- to twelve-foot swells aren't unusual, and it all looks the same from the outside," Rudnick says. "It's easy to get misled out there."

2. Great Lakes

Given their combined 94,250 square miles of surface area, there's a lot of room in the Great Lakes for fishermen to get into trouble. And with nearly 34 million people living along the lakes' shores, plenty of anglers do exactly that. Last year alone, Coast Guard crews dashed out to execute 6,887 rescues on the five lakes.

"Fishermen need to have respect for the lakes, because they can kill you in so many ways," says LTJG Ron Kooper, who is based at the Coast Guard's Sault Sainte Marie detachment.

Weather accounts for most of the damage.

"We'll get some pretty good storms on the lakes," Kooper says. "And a lot of them aren't forecast."

In other words, storms can seem to appear from nowhere-like, for example, the infamous "white squalls" that occasionally shatter summer calms.

Walter Hoagman, an extension agent for the Michigan Sea Grant, was steering his 24-foot cabin cruiser across Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay in July 1995 when a squall struck. "The sea ahead became suddenly flecked with white, as if a tremendous school of fish were thrashing the water," Hoagman said in a written account of the experience. "The white zone barreled down on us at amazing speed. Before Athelia [BRACKET "his wife"] could even throttle back, the white zone swept past us and the bow violently slewed off course despite all she could do."

In a matter of just minutes, the Hoagmans found themselves battling fierce 80-mile-an-hour winds and 12-foot waves cresting like Christmas trees. After three harrowing hours, the storm broke and the shaken pair continued to their destination Tawas Point, lucky and grateful to be alive.

Most Great Lakes storms aren't nearly as unexpected, but they are no less dangerous. Lt. Kooper notes that the worst weather tends to occur near the junctions of Lake Superior, Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.

"Lake Superior is unique in that it has few land masses to block the winds coming off the prairies," Kooper explains. "Last year, our station performed one hundred and three search-and-rescue missions in Superior, northern Huron and northern Michigan."

3. Tampa Bay

Few other places in the country have weather as violently unpredictable as Florida's Tampa Bay. "In the summertime, the weather can change in a heartbeat," says Jon Saltzgaver, a law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We get thunderstorms that come up literally in minutes. You can be out fishing on a calm, beautiful afternoon, and fifteen minutes later you're in a tremendous thunderstorm with wind, lightning and waves."

Saltzgaver says pop-up thunderstorms happen almost every day from mid-June to late September.

The storms are as powerful as they are routine. Commission spokesman Gary Morse, a former boating instructor, calls Tampa Bay's thunderstorms "the second most violent found anywhere."

The storms wreak havoc on small boats. Morse says roughly 110,000 powerboats are registered to people in the three counties surrounding the bay, and a lot of those boats end up on the water during thunderstorm season. "We have too many beginners who don't have the training to deal with these weather conditions," he says.

The key to staying safe, Morse adds, is to run for port as soon as dark clouds appear on the horizon. "If you can't get off the water, hunker down in a protected place," he says. "Try to seek shelter under one of the big bridges in the bay. You don't want to be caught out in the open, because the winds in those thunderstorms run from thirty-five to fifty-five knots and the waves usually run three to five feet."

4. White River

Arkansas's White River, one of the finest tailwater trout fisheries in the U.S., can look deceptively calm to the eye, but beneath the placid demeanor is a river system that has claimed many victims.

The danger comes from fast-rising water. Each of the dams that feed the fisheries on the White, Little Red and North Fork rivers generates power. When the turbines start up, the rivers' flows increase dramatically.

"There are eight turbines in Bull Shoals Dam on the White," says Mark Oliver, district fisheries biologist for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. "When all of them are switched on, the flow can go from fifty cubic feet per second to more than twenty-two thousand."

Anglers who wade must flee or drown.

"A lot of wade fishermen end up becoming stranded, especially if they happen to be on the wrong side of the river when the water comes up," Oliver says.

The greatest danger, however, is to people who fish from boats.

"One of the favorite fishing tactics of anglers on the White is to anchor a boat at both ends so that it's sitting perpendicular to the current," Oliver explains. "That way, all the people in the boat can fish downstream. It's effective, but it's dangerous. If the river comes up and your anchor ropes are too short, your boat gets swamped. If you don't swamp, the fast flow under the boat can high-side you and flip you over."

The river's record-class brown trout draw more anglers each year, and with them comes an increase in the number of incidents.

"My advice to someone coming in here is to pick out a landmark such as a rock in the river and watch that," Oliver says. "If the water starts rising on it, head for shore."

5. New River

The Shawnee Indians had a name for West Virginia's New River-they called it "the river of death." That wasn't stretching the truth.

Late along its 320-mile course, the New drops into a deep canyon littered with whitewater rapids. Every year, seemingly without fail, those rapids claim the lives of three to five unfortunate anglers.

"The river creates conditions that most boaters simply can't handle," says Dave Arnold, a veteran fishing guide and managing partner of Class VI River Runners. "Anybody who runs the New River, especially in the lower end of the gorge, bears a huge risk of being hurt or drowned."

Southern West Virginia's steep topography makes the river susceptible to quick rises during heavy rains. The New gets ugly during high flows. The center of the river becomes a giant wave train, with few spots to escape the relentless current.

Seemingly benign low-water conditions can turn out to be every bit as dangerous, however.

"Low water creates the risk of entrapment," Arnold says. "On the New, most fatalities occur when someone's foot or arm is wedged between rocks. The current pushes his head underwater and he can't escape."

Arnold suggests that anglers who come to fish for the river's trophy smallmouth bass should plan to hire a guide. "There's never been a death from a commercial whitewater fishing trip in West Virginia," he emphasizes.

The river can trip up even the best boatmen, however. Brian "Squirrel" Hager, a guide with over 21 years of experience, took an unexpected swim last summer in the New's infamous Lower Keeney Rapids.

"If you had told me there was a one-in-a-thousand chance of flipping there, I would have laughed at you," Hager says. "I've probably taken fishermen through those rapids a hundred times at that same water level in exactly the same way, and that was the first time I ever flipped. But that just goes to show you how unpredictable this river can be."

6. Hells Canyon, Snake River

Big fish, big water and big engines make a volatile combination. And nowhere is that combination more often ignited than in the aptly named Hells Canyon of the Snake River between Washington and Idaho.

"It's the capital of the aluminum jet boat world," says Larry Barrett, a fisheries biologist for the Idaho Fish and Game Department. "Fortunately for us, the canyon has enough of a bad reputation that we don't get too many inexperienced boaters."

The Snake's heavy flows, violent rapids and rocky bottom do a good job of weeding out the foolish and unwary. "There are lots of places and ways to get into trouble," says Barrett, who regularly runs the canyon's rapids to fish for sturgeon. "What most people fail to realize is that it's a lot harder to run these rapids upstream in a jet boat than it is to run them downstream in a raft."

Most jet-boat accid Virginia's New River-they called it "the river of death." That wasn't stretching the truth.

Late along its 320-mile course, the New drops into a deep canyon littered with whitewater rapids. Every year, seemingly without fail, those rapids claim the lives of three to five unfortunate anglers.

"The river creates conditions that most boaters simply can't handle," says Dave Arnold, a veteran fishing guide and managing partner of Class VI River Runners. "Anybody who runs the New River, especially in the lower end of the gorge, bears a huge risk of being hurt or drowned."

Southern West Virginia's steep topography makes the river susceptible to quick rises during heavy rains. The New gets ugly during high flows. The center of the river becomes a giant wave train, with few spots to escape the relentless current.

Seemingly benign low-water conditions can turn out to be every bit as dangerous, however.

"Low water creates the risk of entrapment," Arnold says. "On the New, most fatalities occur when someone's foot or arm is wedged between rocks. The current pushes his head underwater and he can't escape."

Arnold suggests that anglers who come to fish for the river's trophy smallmouth bass should plan to hire a guide. "There's never been a death from a commercial whitewater fishing trip in West Virginia," he emphasizes.

The river can trip up even the best boatmen, however. Brian "Squirrel" Hager, a guide with over 21 years of experience, took an unexpected swim last summer in the New's infamous Lower Keeney Rapids.

"If you had told me there was a one-in-a-thousand chance of flipping there, I would have laughed at you," Hager says. "I've probably taken fishermen through those rapids a hundred times at that same water level in exactly the same way, and that was the first time I ever flipped. But that just goes to show you how unpredictable this river can be."